(Mirror Daily, United States) – When you’re stressed, angry, or depressed you may notice that your dog either tries to console you or stare at you licking its own face multiple times per minute. A new study suggests that dogs engage in the habit when they are under a lot of stress.
Researchers have tried to explain mouth-licking in dogs for years. Past research suggests that it may either be a stress-coping mechanism, a display of a desire to play or be fed, or a display of excitement.
Yet, the latest study by a team of researchers at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, suggests that mouth-licking may by dogs’ reaction to changes in human faces, especially angry faces.
For their study, scientists exposed 17 dogs to a series of video cues which represented human emotions. Dogs watched a succession of angry and happy faces on a couple of screens. The videos had audio output as well.
Researchers were attentive to when dogs started to lick their mouths. They found that the reaction appeared when an angry face popped up on the screens.
Mouth-licking was triggered by visual cues only,
noted the researchers.
Dogs Licking their Own Faces when Exposed to Negative Emotions
Lead scientist Natalia Albuquerque said that some breeds of dogs tended to engage in the behavior more often than other breeds. However, mouth-licking was triggered when dogs were exposed to negative human emotions.
When dogs saw angry faces they started licking their own faces twice as much as they did when they perceived a positive emotion.
The findings appeared Nov. 28 in the Behavioural Processes.
The research team underlined that the latest findings suggest a huge emotional intelligence in dogs, which are now believed to be smarter than cats despite decades of research that had proven otherwise.
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